After getting off to a slow start this season, Ponder turned things around in its final two nondistrict games with wins over Nocona and Sadler S&S Consolidated. Now, the Lions will look to carry their momentum into a District 4-3A (Division I) opener against Boyd at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
The Lions (2-2) and coach Rusty Ballard have had success against the Yellowjackets over the last three seasons and enter Friday night’s matchup having won the last two games between the teams.
Last season, Ponder defeated Boyd 26-20 in the second game of district play, but the Yellowjackets managed to make the playoffs while the Lions fell just short. Ponder hopes to use the district opener to set the tone for a bounce-back run at the postseason.
“They’re a really good team, and we’re excited about the opportunity to start off district,” Ballard said. “Obviously, it would be a really big step to put us in a position to make it into the playoffs. Our first four district games are very important — they happen to be the first one that list.”
The Lions’ two losses to Howe (21-18) and Wichita Falls City View (21-3) were largely the result of offensive struggles that the team has since corrected. Ballard has opened up the offense the last two weeks, and Ponder responded by scoring 36 points against Nocona and 21 against S&S Consolidated in the pouring rain last week.
The offense has thrived the last two weeks behind the play of senior quarterback Mason Durrett, who has accounted for 574 total yards and seven touchdowns. Sophomore Chase Taylor has 221 yards and two touchdowns on the ground while Juan Zepeda has chipped in with 144 yards.
Boyd enters Friday with a 2-2 record and is coming off a 33-7 win over Howe. The Yellowjackets base their offense around the arm of senior quarterback Kody Risenhoover, who has thrown for 932 yards and 10 touchdowns this season. Brian Couture (25 catches, 341 yards and two TDs) and Nick Taylor (12 catches, 251 yards, three TDs) are the team’s top receivers.
With four teams — Brock, Pilot Point, Whitesboro and Paradise — sitting at 3-1 entering district play, Ballard emphasized the importance of getting off to a strong start against the Yellowjackets.
“It’s going to come down to the team that makes the least mistakes, even though I know that’s cliché,” Ballard said. “Our district is one of the toughest you can find, with Brock and Whitesboro and the re-emerging Pilot Point with how they’re playing. Boyd is right up there on that list.
“In a lot of ways, it’s really like a must-win. It’s kind of like a playoff game for both of us. If we don’t take care of business in this first one, that’s going to leave us in a bind as we go through district.”
Argyle vs. Liberty-Eylau
Where: Sulphur Springs
Time: 7 p.m.
Records: Argyle (3-0), Texarkana Liberty-Eylau (1-3)
What’s on the line: Argyle’s fast start is really no surprise, as the Eagles entered the year with a lot of returning talent and confidence in their chances at making a deep playoff run. With a win over Texarkana Liberty-Eylau, Argyle would move to 4-0 for the third straight season. The Eagles will continue to rely on a dominant passing attack headed by QB Bo Hogeboom (800 yards, 13 TDs) and WR Dillon Carter (365 yards, five TDs), while Tito Byce (253 yards, two TDs) has added balance in the run game. Liberty-Eylau defeated Atlanta for its first win last week but has played a tough schedule with losses to Texarkana (Ark.) Arkansas, Carthage and Texarkana Texas. QB Isaiah Cross is the team’s leading passer and rusher and has accounted for 956 total yards and nine TDs.
Wills Point at Krum
Where: Bobcat Stadium
Time: 7:30 p.m.
Records: Krum (0-4), Wills Point (1-3)
What’s on the line: Krum remains winless, but the Bobcats showed a lot of improvement, most notably on the offensive side of the ball, in a hard-fought loss to Carrollton Ranchview last week. Sophomore QB Bryson Lightfoot accounted for nearly 300 yards of offense and two touchdowns and will lead the Bobcats into Friday night against Wills Point, which is 1-2. QB Demontre Hill is the leader for the Tigers’ offensive attack, as he has 344 passing yards, 404 rushing yards and four touchdowns.
Liberty Christian at China Spring
Where: Cougar Stadium
Time: 7:30 p.m.
Records: Liberty Christian (1-2), China Spring (2-2)
What’s on the line: Liberty Christian continues its nondistrict schedule with a road game against China Spring, and the Warriors will be looking to get back on track after a 49-20 loss to Plano Prestonwood last week. Liberty can get back to .500 with a win. The Warriors’ defense will be key, as the China Spring offense is averaging less than 20 points per game. If Liberty can keep China Spring around that mark, the Warrior offense — led by Andre Washington and Daniel Greek — has the firepower to take care of business.
Pilot Point at Brock
Where: Eagle Stadium
Time: 7:30 p.m.
Records: Pilot Point (3-1), Brock (3-1)
What’s on the line: Pilot Point held No. 4 Gunter scoreless through the first half a week ago before penalties and turnovers doomed the Bearcats in a 21-0 loss. Now, the team will look for a signature win against No. 8 Brock in the District 4-3A (Division I) opener. The Eagles have struggled offensively, averaging just 21 points, but the defense is allowing under 12 points on average. Pilot Point quarterback Jacob Pitts & Co. will look to get back on track after being held scoreless against Gunter while also setting the tone for a run at the district championship.
Celina at Sanger
Where: Indian Stadium
Time: 7 p.m.
Records: Celina (2-1), Sanger (0-4)
What’s on the line: Sanger hosts Celina in a District 7-4A (Division I) opener, and the Indians will be looking to snap a seven-game losing streak dating back to last season. Sanger lost to Mineral Wells 49-0 a week ago, while Celina is coming off a 49-27 win over Fort Worth Dunbar. The Indians will have to slow Logan Point, who rushed for 323 yards last week to pace the Celina offense.
Dallas Lutheran at Calvary
Time: 7:30 p.m.
Records: Calvary (3-1), Dallas Lutheran
What’s on the line: Calvary responded nicely after a shutout loss to Watauga Harvest Christian by dominating Forestburg 69-24 last week. The Lions are 3-1 in their first season under coach Denver Bowden, while Dallas Lutheran sits 2-1 after a 72-27 win over San Antonio Lutheran. Calvary will continue to lean on Jacob Helzer, who accounted for 180 yards and five touchdowns last week.